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North Atlantic Treaty Organisation


New Delhi held its first political dialogue with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in Brusselson December 12, 2019.

  • The idea was to ensure the dialogue was primarily political in character, and to avoid making any commitment on military or other bilateral cooperation.


GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is NATO?
  2. What is important about NATO’s collective defence?
  3. What is the significance of India’s talks with NATO?

What is NATO?

  • The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, or NATO, is a political and military alliance of 28 European countries and two countries in North America (United States and Canada).
  • It was set up in 1949 by the US, Canada, and several western European nations to ensure their collective security against the Soviet Union.
  • It was the US’s first peacetime military alliance outside the western hemisphere.
  • Thirty countries are currently members of NATO, which is headquartered in Brussels, Belgium.
  • The headquarters of the Allied Command Operations is near Mons, also in Belgium.

What is important about NATO’s collective defence?

  • Members of NATO are committed to mutual defence in response to an attack by any external party.
  • Collective defence lies at the very heart of NATO, “a unique and enduring principle that binds its members together, committing them to protect each other and setting a spirit of solidarity within the Alliance”.
  • This is laid out in Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, the founding treaty of NATO.

Article 5 reads: “The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognized by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.”

What is the significance of India’s talks with NATO?

  • India’s talks with NATO hold significance given that the North Atlantic alliance has been engaging both China and Pakistan in bilateral dialogue.
  • There was a view here that given the role of Beijing and Islamabad in New Delhi’s strategic imperatives, reaching out to NATO would add a key dimension to India’s growing engagement with US and Europe.
    • Until December 2019, NATO had held nine rounds of talks with Beijing, and the Chinese Ambassador in Brussels and NATO’s Deputy Secretary General engaged with each other every quarter.
  • NATO had also been in political dialogue and military cooperation with Pakistan; it opened selective training for Pakistani officers and its military delegation visited Pakistan in November 2019 for military staff talks.
  • The first round of dialogue was finalised for December 12, 2019 by the Indian mission in Brussels after it received a draft agenda for the meeting from NATO.
  • Upon receipt of the draft agenda, an inter-ministerial meeting was convened with representatives from the External Affairs and Defence ministries, and the National Security Council Secretariat.
  • Engaging NATO in a political dialogue would provide New Delhi an opportunity to bring about a balance in NATO’s perceptions about the situation in regions and issues of concerns to India.

Was there any common ground?

  • In New Delhi’s assessment, there was a convergence in the perspectives of both India and NATO on China, terrorism, and Afghanistan, including Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan.
  • The first dialogue, it is learnt, revealed three critical issues on which India expected only limited common ground with NATO:
    • From NATO’s perspective, it was not China, but Russia whose aggressive actions continued to be the main threat to Euro-Atlantic security, and that NATO had faced difficulties to convene meetings of NATO-Russia Council due to Russian refusal to place issues such as Ukraine and Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty on the agenda.
    • Given the divergence among NATO countries, its view on China was seen as mixed; while it did deliberate on China’s rise, the conclusion was that China presented both a challenge and an opportunity.
    • In Afghanistan, NATO saw the Taliban as a political entity, which was not in line with India’s stance. This was almost two years before the Taliban announced an interim government in Afghanistan in September 2021.
  • However, the Indian side felt maritime security was a principal area of conversation in the future, given a substantial common ground with NATO.

-Source: Indian Express

February 2024